"She says that I'm good at reading": A Case Study of Engaged Māori Beginning Readers
The impetus and reason for this study has been a desire to discover and capture the 'spark' that causes Māori children specifically, to have a love of reading, to be enthusiastic about reading and, in turn to be confident and competent beginning readers. Research in Maori education often focuses on problems of student underachievement. This study by contrast has aimed to highlight aspects of positive practice by recording the learning behaviours of a group of Maori children across two low decile primary schools, who are not only engaged in the beginning approach to reading but who are clearly motivated by and enjoying the process. This study explores the reasons why Māori children are engaged and motivated beginning readers and aims to see if it is possible to capture any of these attributes in order to support other Māori learners in becoming successful readers. The value of this research is in its potential to contribute to frameworks or initiatives that support Māori children achieving well, in this case, in the area of literacy. This study is a qualitative research under the tradition of a case study inquiry and is embedded within a Kaupapa Māori paradigm. A total of 17 participants (two literacy advisers, two teachers, six children and seven parents) were interviewed using flexibly structured interviews. The interviews were transcribed and analysed through themes that came from the data itself. Common themes from each participant group allowed for analysis in relation to the key research questions: What is the spark that causes Māori children to have a 'love of reading? What does this spark look like? What sparks Māori children into enjoying reading? And what are the factors and influences that contribute to reading engagement and motivation for Māori children? Classroom observations and video filming were also methods of data gathering in order to gain full and deep contexts of descriptive data of the children and teachers in their natural everyday classroom environment. The six children observed in this study were strongly engaged in classroom reading contexts and motivated to read. Both teachers and parents had a firm but relaxed approach to the reading experience. Strong and supportive home-school relationships with open communication were evident. Māori tikanga (practice) was incorporated naturally into planning. Teacher planning and practice was in line with best evidence for effective literacy practice. The practice of the two Pakeha teachers was in many ways consonant with Maori pedagogical approaches and this gave support to the children as Māori learners. The observations and interviews showed beginning readers who were comfortable and relaxed in their learning. They were making clear progress in reading, and approaching national norms in achievement. The 'spark' that leads children to be highly motivated readers, concentrating on reading tasks and clearly loving the process of learning to read is an intangible quality, hard to jmeasure in practice. But high levels of concentration, enjoyment of reading, and a desire to learn can be observed and recorded. All these things were seen in this study. It is possible to nurture and grow the enthusiasm, engagement and motivation that these children have if teachers demonstrate open hearts and minds in wanting to know their learners. The 'spark' or motivation in this study was also nurtured through the interconnected relationships the children had with their teachers and families and the effective teaching and learning practices displayed by the teachers. Using te reo (language) and tikanga Māori as a 'normal' part of daily practice contributed to the holistic wellbeing of the Māori children in this study, alongside strong home-school relationships. The combination of good teaching practice, good relationships and a firm but relaxed approach provides a model in action for success in supporting Maori children's beginning reading.